City of Ottawa needs to stop killing beavers

(A beaver family member who makes its home in a Stittsville Wetlands pond. Seen here collecting a tree trunk for his lodge. Photo: Sylvia Sabourin)

The Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre is calling on the City of Ottawa to finally put in place progressive practices to coexist with beavers.

The Centre has been working on this issue for many years. More than a decade ago, City Council directed staff to develop a Wildlife Strategy that “would facilitate and foster a more harmonious relationship with all wildlife. Council’s direction was motivated not only by general concerns for biodiversity and harmony with nature but by specific issues and complaints arising from the City’s policies and procedures for dealing humanely with individual animals or populations of animals.”

Yet, with respect to beavers, City staff continue to completely ignore that Council direction. For example, in 2011 invoices paid by the City of Ottawa to trappers amounted to $31,823. By 2017 invoices had increased to $45,019 and, by 2018, the trapper billed the City of Ottawa a whopping $156,710.

“Residents across the City are increasingly angry and vocal about the inappropriate ways the City is dealing with beavers”, said Kate MacNeil, Executive Director of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre. In the last few weeks alone, there are two communities expressing real frustration in the media and through a Petition that has garnered close to 2,000 signatures about the City’s regressive practices.

In Ottawa South, CTV and CBC covered the story https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/lester-the-beaver-must-move-as-dam-causes-concerns-in-ottawa-s-south-end-1.5562866 and https://www.change.org/p/ottawa-save-lester-the-beaver and in Stittsville https://stittsvillecentral.ca/the-stittsville-wetlands-beaver-family-may-not-survive-if-moved/.

(The Stittsville Wetlands beavers. Photo: Sylvie Sabourin)

People have an increased understanding of the importance of beavers as a keystone species to the health of our environment:

  • Dams regulate water flows that prevent flooding and reduce bank erosion
  • During times of drought they maintain surface water flow, helping surrounding vegetation and recharging groundwater up to 2 kms away
  • Replenish our drinking water aquifers
  • Improve water quality, taking up bacteria, pollutants, toxins such as nitrogen and heavy metals
  • Store carbon in plants and soil
  • Increase biodiversity

Stormwater Ponds in our communities provide for passive recreation for residents and the opportunity to observe and learn about beavers. People are appalled that these beavers are being killed in conibear traps – sometimes suffering for minutes while they struggle and drown. Kill traps also pose a real risk to pets and children using these recreational areas.

(The London, Ontario stormwater pond, named Hyde Park, use flow devices to keep beavers in the pond for their livelihood and the public’s enjoyment.)

Beavers are not being relocated as the City of Ottawa has stated. They are being killed. Public funds should never be used for unethical practices that the City has to hide and lie about.

Cities across North America, like London Ontario, are using progressive conflict-prevention practices such as flow devices to keep beavers and their essential environmental services on the landscape.

So why is Ottawa continuing the outdated, costly, environmentally destructive, and inhumane practice of killing beavers?

“As they say, follow the money”, said Donna DuBreuil, President of the Centre. The cost of the trapper is a very small portion of the overall beaver management cost. The real cost to taxpayers is buried in Ottawa’s Municipal Drainage, Road and Stormwater budgets. It involves continual inspection and the frequent cleaning of culverts and ditches using City equipment and manpower. It is the protection of this unnecessary work that is often behind the resistance to adopt cost-effective prevention measures.

With the City ‘appropriating’ an ever-increasing number of natural creeks, ponds and wetlands for stormwater purposes to serve development, Ottawa must make the minor adjustments to work with nature and not against it. Beaver trapping must stop”, said DuBreuil.


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2 thoughts on “City of Ottawa needs to stop killing beavers”

  1. Thank you for this. It has puzzled me for years why the staff responsible for environmental management at City Hall, who are generally quite progressive in their thinking (be it within the confines of what Council-approved policy allows), have this blind spot about beavers. I recall that at one point, flow devices were installed… incorrectly. Naturally, they failed, so back to the trapper solution!

    The more general blind spot at City Hall is that they’d rather not listen to what others have to say. A double shame in this case, because expert advice is readily available in the O-C Wildlife Centre! Or they could give their colleagues in London, Ontario a call.

    1. Excellent comment! I agree, and wonder how and why the city is allowing this to happen, especially at a time when beaver can provide protection against the adverse effects of climate change, and help mitigate the resulting negative impacts.

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